Pretty Porto

It was quite fitting that our last European adventure while living abroad was a ‘spontaneous booked the night before’ trip. We had some Airline points that we knew we wouldn’t use once living back in the US, so Thursday evening looked at award tickets on a whim. Turns out we could get a great deal on business class flights to Porto. Even better, the InterContinental Porto was available on employee discount, which is a rare occurrence!IMG_0940

We flew our Friday afternoon and arrived at gorgeous Intercontinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas hotel by late afternoon. The hotel is centrally located in town, close by both the river but also just around the corner from Clergios Tower and other historic attractions. We dropped off our bags and immediately headed out to explore the town while it was still light out. We admired the beautiful Clerigos Church and then wandered through the adorable boutiques (we were pleasantly surprised by all of the unique stores in Porto with all sorts of local, unique goods and art). After wandering the streets for a bit and admiring the architecture and beautiful Portuguese tile, we stumbled upon the Base Porto – this amazing green space turned into a bar overlooking Clérigos tower. We grabbed some drinks and enjoyed the sun and views of Porto.

We had made dinner reservations at this trendy restaurant at KOB, which we passed by earlier in the afternoon, but we knew we needed to first start the evening off with some tapas. We tried a few places I had researched that were unfortunately completely booked, before convincing the staff at Tapas Na Boca that we wouldn’t stay long so they could have our table for their later reservations (people in Porto don’t typically eat dinner till after 9 so tip is to go early for dinner if you’re struggling to get in somewhere). We had a delicious spread of tapas – a meat and cheese plate along with some Portuguese sausage. It was the perfect appetizer Afterwards, we enjoyed a proper dinner at KOB, sitting in their beautiful courtyard and hanging out till we possibly couldn’t eat or drink any more.

Saturday morning we woke up early for a run. If you’ve been to Porto or Portugal in general, you know how many hills there are in the city. I figured I would struggle but wow, my calves were killing me only a quarter of the way through our 5k run. We ran across the river to the winery side and ended up running along the waterfront admiring the gorgeous bridge and colorful buildings of Porto. After we crossed back over to the main side of town, we decided to finish our run (mainly to avoid running up the hill back to the hotel haha) and explored the historic area of Ribeira. We popped into some of the shops – picking up a gift for our baby girl – and then went back to the hotel to shower and get ready.

We attempted to eat brunch at Zenith, but the line was insane so instead explored the nearby market before grabbing some yogurt and coffee from Mercador Cafe. We walked around the streets before deciding to get some sandwiches to go from this hole in the wall, A Sandiera do Porto, which claimed the best sandwiches in Porto. We thought we’d bring them over to the wineries in case there wasn’t any food available.

We crossed back over the river and headed to Taylor’s, one of the largest port wine houses that dates back to the 1600s. I enjoyed some lovely grape juice while Cole tried out some of the vintage ports. We then headed to the hotel next door, The Yeatman, which our cab driver had recommended to us to enjoy the hotel’s wonderful views overlooking the city. Unfortunately, the weather and fog blocked most of our visibility, but we sat outside on their patio and enjoyed some drinks and the partial view. We then walked back town to the waterfront and stopped at one more port wine house – Sandemans. Cole was enamoured with their branding and marketing, which I admit is pretty unique. As it turns out, the original artist of the iconic logo was Irish and sold the drawing for only 50 Guinnesses!

Afterwards, we walked along the river crossing back into Ribeira looking for somewhere to grab a drink and an early appetizer. Unfortunately, most kitchens close between lunch and dinner (only opening back up at 7:30) so we didn’t have much luck and struck out on a few places. We eventually landed at a tapas place which was quaint and adorable, but unfortunately had just mediocre food. After we grabbed a quick bite, our final stop was to pop into their central train station, Porto Sao Bento, which has the infamous Portuguese blue tiles in their entryway. It really is quite a welcoming and beautiful entrance to Porto! We then went back to the hotel to dry off a bit and freshen up before the evening. That night we enjoyed some tapas again (hey, when in Rome!), grabbed some delicious cocktails from the Royal Cocktail Club, and then picked up some gelato from Cremosi to enjoy while we walked along the city streets to see bit more of the town at night.

Sunday, Cole woke up early and picked up a rental car from the airport. He scooped me up and we tried Zenith again for brunch, this time going early enough we didn’t have to wait (woo!). While the coffee and yogurt was delicious, our avocado eggs Benedict didn’t quite live up to the hype. Perhaps we are spoiled by Cole’s cooking (he really does make some of the best avocado toast ever), but it wasn’t very good and definitely glad we didn’t wait for over an hour for that dish.

We then headed east out of Porto to check out the infamous Douro valley – where most of Porto’s port wine is produced. The region is known for its wineries perched up along the hills adjourning the river valley. The ride between Pinhão and Régua was even voted one of the most beautiful drives in the world back in 2015! It’s only about an hour and a half from Porto, so would recommend checking it out if you’re in the area. We started off at Quinta de Seixo and without intentionally planning it, it turned out to be the winery of Sandemans! They had this stunning tasting room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I decided to splurge and have a glass of wine while Cole tried a port tasting. We bought a few goodies from the shop and then headed into the ‘town’ of Pinhão. The town is quite small so the only thing we did here was just head up to the viewpoint – Miradour de Loivos, which offers great views overlooking the valley.

We then drove back to the town of Régua for lunch before seeing a sign for the Six Senses hotel, located only a few minutes away! My company recently acquired this incredible luxury collection of resorts and I’ve never been to a property, so we decided to stop by and check it out. We ended up getting lunch here enjoying the gorgeous views overlooking their private forest. The hotel itself is absolutely stunning with a spa and pool along with the most luxurious accommodation, so if you ever find yourself in Douro valley, would highly recommend staying or at least grabbing a drink at the Six Senses Douro Valley! After our pit stop, we quickly wandered through Régua, admiring along their famous collection of bridges and popping into some of the shops/restaurants that have been converted from the original train station.

Unfortunately, it was time for us to head back into Porto to make our way to the airport and fly back to London. Our last European adventure was the perfect combination of city exploration along with a little bit of adventure from our road trip out to the Douro Valley. I can’t recommend Porto enough – ideally try to make your trip a long weekend so you can combine Porto with a trip out to the Douro valley. I promise you’ll enjoy the beautiful architecture, sweeping views, tasty tapas and smooth Port wine as much as we did!

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